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Column 105416A. In sub-paragraph (5) of paragraph 2 of Schedule 12 to that Act (constitution of medical appeal tribunals) for the words "to the panel mentioned in sub-paragraph (4)" there shall be substituted the words "chairman of a tribunal under sub-paragraph (4)(e)".'.-- [Mr. Peter Lloyd.]
Amendments made : No. 7, in page 20, line 26, after sections', insert
(Amendments relating to primary Class 1 contributions) .'. No. 37, in page 20, line 26, after sections', insert
(Abolition of earnings rule etc) '.
No. 52, in page 20, line 26, after 3', insert
(Benefits for women widowed before 11th April 1988) '.-- [Mr. Peter Lloyd.]
Amendment made : No. 38, in page 21, line 15, at end insert-- (dd) the first regulations made under section 59B(7) of the principal Act (retirement allowance) by virtue of paragraph 8(6) of Schedule (Abolition of earnings rule etc) to this Act, or (de) the first regulations made under section 2 of the Social Security Act 1988 (reduced earnings allowance etc) by virtue of paragraph 8(7) of that Schedule, or'.-- [Mr. Peter Lloyd.]
Amendment made : No. 53, in page 21, line 45 at end insert-- " Commissioner" has the same meaning as it has in the principal Act ;'.-- [Mr. Peter Lloyd.]
Amendments made : No. 54, in page 22, line 40 after 3' insert (Benefits for women widowed before 11th April 1988)'.
No. 81, in page 22, line 40, leave out 13, 14, 15' and insert to'.
No. 82, in page 22, line 41, at end insert--
(aa) Schedule 1 ;'.-- [Mr. Peter Lloyd.]
Amendments made : No. 39, in page 59, line 9, leave out from beginning to first A' in line 13 and insert
for the words following paragraph (b) there shall be substituted the words- -
"and, subject to the provisions of this Act, he shall become so entitled on the day on which he attains pensionable age and his entitlement shall continue throughout his life."
(3A) After that subsection there shall be inserted--
No. 40, in page 59, leave out lines 19 and 20 and insert (9) Subject to the provisions of this Act, a woman's entitlement to a Category B retirement pension shall commence on the day on which the conditions of entitlement become satisfied in her case and shall continue throughout her life.'.
Column 1055No. 41, in page 59, line 34, leave out paragraph 5.-- [Mr. Peter Lloyd.]
Amendments made : No. 10, in page 67, line 16, column 3, at end insert--
In section 4(6F), the words "primary or".'.
No. 42, in page 67, line 19, column 3, at end insert--
In section 14(6), the words following paragraph (c). In section 15(6)(a), the words "but have not retired from regular employment".'.
No. 43, in page 67, column 3, leave out lines 22 and 23 and insert
Section 27(3), (4) and (5).
In section 28(1)(a), the words "and has retired from regular employment".
In section 30, subsection (1), in subsection (3), in paragraph (a), the words "retired from regular employment or has otherwise" and the words "retired or" and subsection (6)(a).'.
No. 47, in page 68, line 10, column 3, at end insert--
In Schedule 4, paragraph 39(a).'.
No. 48, in page 68, line 29, column 3, at end insert--
In Schedule 4, paragraph 11.'.
No. 21, in page 68, line 35, column 3, at end insert--
, other than those added by the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.'.
No. 44, in page 67, line 26, column 3, at end insert--
In section 39(1)(b), the words "and has retired from regular employment".
In section 41(1), the words "section 30(1) of this Act and to".
Section 48(2) and (3).'.
No. 45, in page 67, line 50, column 3, at end insert--
No. 46, in page 67, line 51, column 3, at beginning insert
In section 8(1), the words "who has retired from regular employment".
No. 49, in page 68, line 39, column 3, at end insert--
No. 50, in page 68, line 46, column 3, leave out paragraph 3(3)(c)' and insert--
in paragraph 3, in sub-paragraph (3)(b), the words "30(1)", sub-paragraph (3)(c), sub-paragraph (3)(c), sub-paragraph (4)(b) and the word "or" immediately preceding it.'.
No. 51, in page 68, line 51, at end insert--
1988 c. 7. Social Security Act 1988. Section 2(9).'-- [Mr. Peter Lloyd.]
Order for Third Reading read.--[Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified.]
This is a relatively short Bill but it covers a great deal of ground and brings in some welcome and necessary changes--changes improved and extended by Government amendments and those brought forward by Opposition Members which the Government have been persuaded to adopt--not often enough, I am sure the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs Beckett) will tell us shortly for the full satisfaction of Labour Members, but often enough, I hope, for hon. Members on both sides to feel that the time spent in Committee was worthwhile.
The Bill will reform the structure of national insurance contributions, removing the steps that were a heavy disincentive for employees to increase the hours they worked over the lower earnings limit, and giving a saving for nearly all class 1 contributors of up to £3 a week.
The Bill will also abolish the earnings rule, removing the restriction on people enjoying their pensions while contributing to the economy and their own incomes. About 2,500 workers over pension age will be affected immediately, but it is over the coming years that the full impact will be felt, as those coming up to 60 or 65 will no longer have to decide whether to make the declaration that they are giving up work to secure their pension, thereby in effect writing themselves out of the job market.
The Bill also applies equal treatment in occupational pensions--no discrimination between men and women as regards the right to join a scheme, liability or entitlement to pay contributions, rate of contributions or, as we discussed when debating the last amendment, entitlement to benefits.
Particularly welcome, I believe, is the clause raising the upper age limit for mobility allowance from 75 to 80. The Bill will also put liability for injury--again, as we have debated tonight--on a reasonable and equitable footing, with the insurer obliged to reimburse the state for the cost of the plaintiff's benefits while he was off sick as well as the plaintiff for the injury itself.
Column 1057The Bill also introduces the new concept of employment trial for those who have been out of work for more than six months as an encouragement to broaden the range of jobs that they feel able to consider. But the central feature of the Bill is the change that we have debated extensively today--the requirement that in future every unemployed person, as a condition of receiving benefit, should be actively seeking work.
Most unemployed people do this on their own initiative--because they want to get back into a job--but a minority do not, as some Opposition Members have conceded. But, they say, the present rules are strong enough to deal with that minority. My hon. Friend the Minister of State showed conclusively that that comfortable assumption is wrong. The current rules are sufficient to ensure that people are available for work and have drawn attention to that fact by signing on, but not to do any more.
That is unfair to those in work, many of whom are not well off, who pay the taxes and contributions which finance unemployment benefits. It is unfair also to those who are without work but who are assiduously seeking it. It is unfair in the long run to the individuals themselves and their families, and it is unfair to the nation at large when there are growing numbers of unfilled vacancies.
Opposition Members will say that the unemployed will be pressed into a mechanical, useless and soul-destroying round of chasing after jobs that are not there or are unattainable. Emphatically that is not so. As my hon. Friend the Minister of State made absolutely clear, the purpose is to provide encouragement, incentive and, indeed, where necessary in some cases, pressure on those without jobs to do what the majority of unemployed people already do willingly and on their own initiative.
Local staff will be required to know the local job market and to judge what is realistic, fair and reasonable for an individual in terms of his or her age, health and experience.
Mr. Battle : Will the Minister confirm that the Bill will also price people into work by insisting that unemployed people accept a job at whatever low rate they are offered, regardless of whether they can live on it or not?
Mr. Lloyd : The going rate will no longer be a reason for people to refuse work, but, of course, it will be one of the many considerations that benefit officers will take into account, as my hon. Friend made clear.
The "actively seeking work" change is fully justified in simple justice. There is no better time to make it than now, when there is an increasing range of jobs to be had and the most severe constraint on the nation's further economic growth is that so many of them remain empty. I urge the House to give this excellent Bill a Third Reading.
Mrs. Beckett : The main impact of this year's Social Security Bill will stem--and is intended to stem, as the Minister accepted in his final remarks--from clauses 7, 8, 9 and 10. Those clauses have been explained--I will not use the word "justified"--by the Government on the basis of their reaction, in the main, to a survey of the London labour market which they argue is supported by other labour market surveys, although many who are familiar with the detail of all those reports would contest that view.
One could argue in any event that the London labour market is not typical, but let us not worry about that, because the Government did not. We acknowledge that it
Column 1058was reported in that survey that some unemployed people in London had not looked for work in the previous week and that some has not looked for work in the previous four weeks. On that one feature of that one report the central part of the legislation seems to have been based. All the other aspects of the report, all the questions that it left unanswered and all the myths that it laid have been completely ignored.
Let us begin by taking those who said that they had not looked for work in the previous week or weeks. They were not asked in that survey, as they had been in others, why they had not looked for work at that time. When the Secretary of State referred at the Tory party conference to the number who seemed to be in that position, he failed to mention--no doubt through an oversight--that about 250,000 were sick or disabled. Even those who do not come into that category have indicated in other surveys that if they had ceased looking for work every week, it was due to a realistic assessment, based on immediate and direct experience, of their chances of getting a job in the current labour market conditions.
The Government have suggested, as did the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State a moment ago, that because labour market conditions have eased the provisions of the Bill are needed to ensure that those who have despaired and, because of their experience, have ceased to seek work are put in touch with the eased market. Other labour market surveys show that people who at one time ceased actively to pursue work every week step up their job search of their own volition as soon as it becomes apparent that more jobs may be available. That evidence supports the view that clause 7 is not needed to encourage an active search for work where there is any point in that search for the individual.
The survey on which the legislation is based showed that employers are reluctant to hire the long-term unemployed even when they have suitable skills or experience. Nothing is being done about that in the legislation. The survey also showed that unemployed people do not have unrealistic expectations of levels of pay and that they are not ruling themselves out because they are seeking wages which employers cannot or are not prepared to offer. Yet clause 9 is based on the assumption that that is happening.
Labour market surveys show, not surprisingly, that those with family responsibilities look harder for work than those without them. Yet under clause 10 people with family responsibilities will see all rights to any income, even income support, placed in jeopardy in order, so the Government say, to encourage them to look harder for work, although the survey on which the legislation is based shows that they do not need encouragement when work is available. What this survey and every survey of the labour market shows most of all is that by no stretch of statistical creativity can the Government make the number of jobs without workers fit the number of workers without jobs. On even the most favourable reading of the unemployment figures, two out of three--or, more likely, five out of six-- have no opportunity of employment, no matter how hard they seek it. Under the Bill, they will be put under pressure to give assurances that they will take any job with any wages and conditions, even if it is temporary work, or they will be disqualified from receiving benefit. The Minister has said that that will not happen. That is what the Government said last year when we warned them that
Column 1059taking all rights to benefit away from the 16 to 18-year-olds would result in many of them wandering destitute through our streets. Since then, Ministers have had to take emergency action to deal with some of the problems that they said last year would not exist. The Bill will do nothing to help most of the unemployed to find work. Far from encouraging those with problems, it will discourage those who continue not to find work by rubbing their noses in their repeated failure week after week, year in and year out.
The Bill is intended to reduce further the numbers of registered unemployed. It is intended to foster the climate in which people are forced into jobs even with atrocious pay and conditions. It will cause hardship, distress, agony and anguish to many who, despite deprivation, seek to maintain their pride and their independence of spirit. I fear that it will lead to increased mental breakdown and even to an increase in the number of suicides. That seems to us a high price to pay and a serious risk to run for the sake of pandering to the prejudices of the comfortable, the secure and the ignorant. It is a price that no responsible Government would be prepared to pay and a risk that no responsible Government would be willing to run, and it will be a lasting shame even to the present irresponsible Administration.
During the controversy over the most contentious part of the Bill, clause 5, which has been welcomed on both sides of the House, has been overlooked. The clause implements my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's decision to increase to 80 years the age limit for mobility allowance.
Secondly, the changes to the rules on income support and housing benefit for those 16 and 17-year-olds who are genuinely estranged from their parents are right and should be welcomed by everyone. Thirdly, on the more controversial topic of the "actively seeking work" clause, I accept that there is a strong difference of opinion between the two sides of the House. I believe that when the clause is in practice it will not bring about the dire results mentioned by Opposition Members. The vast majority of those who, sadly, are unemployed and desperately want to go back to work will have nothing to fear from that part of the Bill. It will help to fill the loophole open to people who genuinely do not want to work.
I am pleased that we have come to the Third Reading of the Bill. I wholeheartedly support it and look forward to seeing it on the statute book later this summer.
Mr. Tony Banks : I find it somewhat sickening that a number of Conservative Members have suddenly turned up in the Chamber after not having been here this evening. They have come, no doubt, from their good dinners further to penalise the poor and the vulnerable. There is something especially nasty about the way that this has been done. Conservative Members would not be prepared to accept the conditions that they impose on other people.
Column 1060They would not be prepared to accept the sort of strictures that attack the poor and the vulnerable which are delivered across the Chamber.
The Government have deliberately created mass unemployment as a policy. They have created mass unemployment as a way of trying to break the powers of the trade union movement and of forcing wages down. The Government have continually attacked forms of employment protection which were fought for before they reached the statute book. The Government have attacked the unemployed. They have created unemployment and they have attacked the people they have forced on the dole.
The Bill is vindictive. It is part of the Government's strategy to force wages down. We know what Victorian values mean to this Government. I am sure that some Conservative Members would be quite happy to see little boys once again earning pennies by going up chimneys. Through the Bill the Government are trying to compel people to take low-paid work--not the kind of work that Conservative Members would be prepared to do.
We have the most obscene values in this society. Some of the most useless people--and I include some Conservative Members in that--receive the highest wages in society. If I were run over tonight--if I were, it would probably be by a car driven by a Conservative Member--who would I want to come to my assistance? Would I want 100 stockbrokers or a nurse? That question is rhetorical and I know who I would want to assist me. However, we must bear in mind the amount of money a stockbroker earns in comparison to a nurse's salary.
Mr. Winnick : With regard to the Victorian society, has my hon. Friend seen today's television news and reports in the press relating to the first survey in 100 years of people living and sleeping in derelict areas? As many people are sleeping out in the cold only a few minutes walk from this place as there were 100 years ago. Is that not another way in which we are returning to the values of Victorian Britain?
Mr. Banks : It is very interesting that the Salvation Army carried out that survey into homelessness in London. The Government have stopped keeping statistics on that subject. When the Government are confronted with the nasty realities of the consequences of their policies, what do they do? They ensure that no one collects the relevant statistics and say that the problem does not exist. It is not surprising that homelessness and poverty have doubled under this Government. It is part of the Government's strategy to attack the weakest, most vulnerable and those suffering most as a result of the Government's policies-- [Interruption.] I know that Conservative Members cannot wait to get into their cars and taxis to leave this place. However, I will not facilitate their easy egress from the House. The way in which Conservative Members were not in the Chamber during the Report stage, how they did not listen and are not concerned is sickening. They are just waiting for the end of Third Reading so they can clear off. I will not facilitate them. It is evidence of the Tory Government's hypocrisy that they always claim that the rich need the incentive of more money to work, but the poor need less. [Interruption.] I assume that Conservative Members have had the benefit of some very good dinners tonight--
Mr. Banks : It is difficult. I would get on with my speech, but is obvious to me that I am faced by a rather unruly and hostile mob. Conservative Members are making it difficult for me to get on with my speech. A little earlier I heard a Tory Whip complain most bitterly that a Division on the Bill had spoilt his dinner. Jolly good. I am glad that it spoilt his dinner.
Mr. Banks : Indeed it is not, Madam Deputy Speaker. However, my point is that all the Conservative Members want to do is to get on with their dinners, get into their taxis and get home. They do not give a damn about the people whom they have affected by the Bill. The Bill is hypocritical and vicious and it is just like Tory Members. It is a snapshot of Tory Members. It is typical of this Gradgrind Government and the hon. Members who support them. I shall oppose the Bill in the Lobby.
Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton) : Having speeded up a speech a few weeks ago so that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) could make his speech and then have his dinner, I regret his remarks about dinners.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will forgive me if I pay tribute to the role played by my hon. Friend the Minister of State in getting the Bill through a toughly argued but civilised Committee stage. That role has continued since the Bill left Committee. I cite as an example the response to the points made about 16 to 17-year-olds and the handsome tribute which was paid to my hon. Friend by the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) on Monday, which appears in Hansard at column 751. My hon. Friend the Minister also acknowledged this evening that the regulations in the Bill will take account of work-related expenses, which is helpful.
I say this in the context of the bilious attack made earlier this evening by the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). We learned nothing new from that attack about the Minister or, indeed, the hon. Member for Bradford, South.
There have been several changes to the Bill since it left Committee. Those changes, which have been referred to this evening, have considerably improved the Bill. For example, the Bill implements the Budget cuts in employees' national insurance contributions. Many Conservative Members have been pressing for that for some time. Reference has also been made to the abolition of the earnings limit. Other improvements include improvements in widows' pensions for the 40 to 45-year-old group and the new premiums for pensioners aged 75 and over.
The most emotional debate in Committee was that on the 16 to 17-year-olds, and the Government have responded to that. The most emotional debate on Report was not that on child benefit. I welcome the fact that the Government are committed to extend the take-up of family credit. I and others believe that this is essential to meet the criticisms which have been levelled by
Column 1062Conservative Members towards the Government's policy on child benefit. In an oral question a week last Monday, I welcomed the measures being taken by the Government.
The most emotional debate on Report was that on transitional benefits, which I do not intend to discuss further. I simply quote again the pledge made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary : "We shall continue to consider the information available to us, and where it is evident that there is pressure on a particular group we shall act accordingly."--[ Official Report, 24 April 1989 ; Vol. 151, c. 743.]
I welcome that commitment by my hon. Friend and I welcome the Bill and the various measures and improvements that it makes.
Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time : The House divided : Ayes 292, Noes 165.
Division No. 181] [10.37 pm
Alison, Rt Hon Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Bevan, David Gilroy
Biffen, Rt Hon John
Blackburn, Dr John G.
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Body, Sir Richard
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Boscawen, Hon Robert
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Buck, Sir Antony
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Cope, Rt Hon John
Currie, Mrs Edwina
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Davis, David (Boothferry)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Fenner, Dame Peggy
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Fishburn, John Dudley
Fookes, Dame Janet
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Fox, Sir Marcus
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Glyn, Dr Alan
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Hampson, Dr Keith
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)